I struggle at times to explain to my parents and some [ahem] older friends the world of social networking. Yes, there are such things as tweet-ups and yes, I do meet with people in person that I first met online. If you an avid user of these online tools this may seem very normal. If you are my father who doesn’t even have an email account, it’s not only foreign but also perhaps a bit frightening. There is a certain amount of distrust for him with the internet. Stories of children being abducted by people they met in chat rooms comes to mind. I realize that not everyone sees these online networks the same way I do.
It has been my experience that social networking is really not that different from traditional networking. It’s an old game but the tools and platform are just evolving. We meet people in the places we hang out, work, spend time, etc. So instead of hanging out at a local coffee shop, I’m spending my time on Twitter. There is etiquette to interacting with people. The rules of networking are still there. You meet people and build trust gradually.
So many of the people that I first meet online I’ve later met in person. I never feel as though I’m meeting a “stranger” for coffee or lunch. These are people that exist in my network already. Perhaps my friend has met them before or I’ve seen them at an event. I don’t want you to think that I don’t value meeting people in “real life.” In fact, I find it’s very important and part of what makes social media a great tool to assist in meeting new contacts in person.
It’s not just people like my parents who get confused on how social networking sites work. Students also get a mixed message. They are told they should be participating in social media because there are job offers, chances to meet professionals and other opportunities. This is true, however no one seems to follow up with the second part of that message. The rewards of social media are not for just being a member or participant of x, y, z site. You must be engaged and understand how the system works. The classic staples of networking still apply online. Focusing on relationships over time is so important.
What are your thoughts? Do you view more traditional networking the same way you view social networking sites? Is this typically a generational phenomenon in your opinion?